The purpose of government is to keep its subjects from harming each other. To minimize harm, government must control the interactions between people, both grand and small. An efficient government is one that causes these interactions to occur in a productive fashion. From a social perspective, the basic unit of production with which to judge government efficiency is not material goods, although goods are a vital part. Individual happiness (or suffering) is the only universal product of government. A government that does not keep its people happy is doomed to fail. When society leaves a large enough group of people unhappy (and determined to change), a revolution is born. If successful, those who come out on top of the revolution form a new government, ideally more efficient than the previous one. This notion of efficiency, or utility as it is called in a philosophical context, provides a simple method for judging the radicalism of revolutions. Radical revolutions are those that, through efficient means, produce new governments that are especially and notably more efficient than the ones that precede them. The soundness of this method assumes a humanistic viewpoint wherein human happiness is the ultimate goal of society. By e
By evaluating comparative efficiency, this essay will argue that the American Revolution is more radical than the Haitian revolution, despite appearances to the contrary.
It is safe to say that British government in its North American colonies was more efficient to begin with than that of Saint Domingue. Wood points emphasize in The Radicalism of the American Revolution that these Americans were prosperous compared to the rest the world. Most were not slaves. Yet, they were still subject to arbitrary, monarchial government that treated colonists as second class citizens. Significantly, their king was particularly inept, and chose to exploit the colonies through taxation rather than allow them to prosper on their own. Colonists seeking changes to create a more viable imperial union, got from the King the so-called Intolerable Acts and a proposal to bring over more British soldiers. Regardless of how good or bad the actual lot of revolutionary Americans was, the inefficiency of their monarchial and colonial form of government is easy to see.
No one denies the prosperity of America as a whole. Nor does anyone deny the wide spread poverty and misery of Haiti. The American Revolution was radical because it was progressive and because it was productive. It improved the lives of those who fought for it and their descendants, not by forcing one group to the top of the social ladder, but by permitting individual mobility. Not only did it yield an efficient government, it created one whose efficiency was achieved through radically different means. To prosper in an egalitarian, capitalist society, the kind America was striving to be requires one to contribute to the greater society, rather than merely occupy a certain station. Democracy combined with capitalism, harnessed the power of self-interest in the social and economic sectors respectively. The Black Jacobins spilled lakes of blood. Their struggle affected the end of slavery in Saint Domingue but not the end of their suffering. The governments resulting out of that revolution were hardly radical at all. Indeed, all of them ruled by the oldest method in the book, the coercion by large brigades of armed men. What is radical about one group of people killing another and supplanting them, only to succumb to infighting and wind up in almost the same situation? Radical is the notion the masses should l
Some topics in this essay:
United States, British Government, Haiti, Thirteen Colonies, Haitians, America, Slavery, Haitian Revolution, American Revolution, Government,
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